How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling

Living in China and working as an English teacher, like us, might not only be a great cultural experience, unforgettable adventure and travel dreams come true, but also a great source of income. I have mentioned before that my full-time job as an English teacher in one of private Chinese kindergartens allows me to support my long-term voyages across Asia, live here at high standard and still be able to save some money. You can find English teaching jobs in China here on eTramping.

A typical Chinese classroom. Minimal. Very Feng Sui.

If you have ever considered going to China and working full-time, here is how much money you can approximately earn within a year, what your spending might be and how much in total you can save:


Current rate

1 RMB (Chinese Yuan) = $0.16

1 RMB = 0.12 euro

1) Full-time Teaching Job

The salary for English teachers in China vary a lot. It depends on your teaching experience, references, gender, nationality and location. If you don’t have neither TESOL nor TEFL certification, you are an inexperienced teacher, and your university degree is not related to education, you will obviously get paid less, but you can still get a job. Moreover, female teachers are typically paid more than male teachers because they are considered as more patient with kids and more reliable. Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher. If you’re not Caucasian, you may find it more difficult to find an English teaching job in China, but we know great many people who managed to do that, so don’t give up. To increase your chances you should take a TEFL course and prove to the schools that you’re qualified teacher. Obviously, the salaries in bigger cities are much higher than in small towns/countryside (the cost of living is also higher).

Don’t think that the higher salary is impossible to obtain, either. If any of this sounds like something you are interested in pursuing, then by all means start working toward a degree in Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TESOL). As long as you study hard and make sure to be conscious of all career opportunities both in and out of school, you should be all set. Both me and Cez did our TEFL accreditation and we’re happy we did.

Adorable Chinese students.

Inexperience teachers can earn between RMB 6.000 and RMB 10.000 per month. RMB 6.000 is the absolute minimum for 16 x 45-minute classes so if you ever get offered less, you can start laughing (ironically). This amount of money can be offered in small towns and rural areas where you don’t need to spend much on food and transportation. If you are TESOL/TEFL certified teacher in a bigger city, your salary should be between RMB 8.000 –RMB 15.000 (again per 16 x 45-minute classes). The more hours you work, the more money you can get. For instance, an average salary of experienced foreign teacher working up to 35-40 hours (including office hours) would be RMB 14.000 or more.

2) Private Teaching

Apart from working in a school/learning center or kindergarten, you can also do some private teaching in your apartment. Most weekends are off work (Mondays and Tuesdays if you work in a Learning Centre) so if the time allows, you can teach a few kids at home. An hour (60 minutes) of private English tutorial is between RMB 150-RMB 300. Let’s say you work 2 extra hours on Saturday and 3 extra hours on Sunday and you charge RMB 150/h, you can earn up to RMB 3.000 per month.

 3) Winter and Summer Camps

During the summer and winter you can also work as a teacher. There are summer and winter camps held in all provinces in China. You will be teaching for 14 days in a row, 4-5 classes a day and your pay should be between RMB 8.000 and RMB 10.000. These courses are very intensive, but you can earn more money in 2 weeks than usually in a month and still have another 2 weeks off.

Total earning

RMB 9.000 (your salary) + RMB 3.000 (private teaching) = RMB 12.000/ month, RMB 120.000/ 10 month + RMB 18.000 (summer and winter camp, RMB 9.000 each)= RMB 138.000 = $21.345.


1. Accommodation

The good news is that almost all Chinese schools provide a free accommodation (fully equipped) for their teachers. It does not matter what province you work in and how many teaching hours you do weekly, you will be given a free apartment with free Wi-Fi and no bills (electricity, water, etc.) to pay monthly. Some schools might ask you to pay your bills, but it should not be more than RMB 300 per month (up to RMB 500 during the summer for the air-conditioning).

Our flat in Dongguan. Small but cozy.

 2. Food

A serving of Baozi – traditional Chinese dumplings.

Again, most of the schools offers free meals during your working hours. If you work early in the morning you can have a free breakfast and lunch (rice/ noodles, meat and veggies) in a school canteen and some snacks in between (a piece of fruit, cookies). If you do late shifts you can stay after your class to have a nice dinner with your colleagues.

Don’t worry if you don’t want to eat at work as dining out in local restaurants is not expensive at all. A typical Chinese breakfast (3 Chinese dumplings, porridge or noodle soup) will cost you between RMB 3 and RMB 10, you should not pay more than RMB10 per lunch and the same amount of money for your dinner. Add a bottle of water (RMB2) and a can of coke (RMB3) and your total food cost per month should not be more than RMB 1.200.

Food spending

Breakfast – RMB 8

Lunch – RMB 10

Dinner – RMB 10

Drinks – RMB 7

Total: RMB35 x 30 days = RMB 1.050/ month, RMB 12.600/ year = $2.068.

3) Travel

The Temple of Heaven, Beijing.

If you are a budget traveller, China will be your paradise! It’s not only massive, extremely beautiful and challenging in terms of the language, but also very affordable. You can easily travel by bus from one city to another (an average bus ride costs RMB 30-RMB 100) or by train if you want to get from one province to another (one-way sitting ticket costs between RMB 80 – RMB 200). In some major tourist cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Zhangjiajie or Chongqing, you can easily find a budget hostel for which you can pay RMB 30 per night (dorms). There are also a few places such as Fenghuang and Dongguan where hostels are not very common and you need to spend more money like RMB100 per night.

Let’s say you want to go for one weekend trip every month:

Train tickets – RMB 400

Hostel RMB100/night 3x RMB100 = RMB 300

Food RMB 35×3= RMB 105

Other expenses (taxi, souvenir, ticket entrance to different attractions) RMB 400 = RMB 1205/month, RMB14.460/ year = $2.374.

Summing Up A Year in China


Your Spendings/ Year:

Accommodation – RMB 0

Food – RMB 12.600

Travel – RMB 14.460

Total: RMB 27.060

Your Earnings/ Year: RMB 138.000

Your Savings/ Year: RMB 138.00- RMB 27.060= RMB 110.940 = $18.215.90

Now tell me…

Is it worth working in China? :-)

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Agness Walewinder
Agness Walewinder
Travel freak, vagabond, photography passionate, blogger, life enthusiast, backpacker, adventure hunter and endless energy couchsurfer living by the rule "Pack lite, travel far and live long!"
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82 thoughts on “How To Save Up To $18.000 A Year Teaching English In China While Traveling”

  1. Agness, it might not be a dream come true for you but it certainly is for your students that they are blessed with you as their teacher! They will remember it their entire lives and such and imprint you will have brought upon thier lives! That makes total sense on female teachers being paid more. Sorry, Cez. The free accommodations part is awesome…way to plan this out! Can I have an extra helping of dumplings, please? Thank you :)I absolutely love what you two are giving to those kids! You and Cez rock!! :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thank you Mike so much. I really appreciate your kind words. I’m a qualified TESOL teacher so this job is a dream come true for me. Right after I entered my university, I had known I wanted to teach in Asia so I’m more than happy to develop myself as a teacher, traveller and blogger. It’s been so much fun I can’t even describe :).

    2. I was wondering must you have a degree to teach there? and are you legally allowed teach private classes at weekends? great blog! :) thanks :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hey Renuka. Thanks for stopping by. It’s great to see you here. I agree, teaching is in demand everywhere, especially in Asia :).

  2. Rika | Cubicle Throwdown

    This is a great informative post Agness!! I love that you break it down with real prices… too many people are vague about it. I don’t think I could stand living in China but I hope to teach English in Japan sometime in the next few years. I hope I’ll save that much money!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hey Rika, thanks! I was thinking about teaching in South Korea. Audrey of That Backpacker really made me wanna go there for 6 months, we will see.

  3. Super informative! And that’s awesome that you can save so much! Jealous :p

    Your apartment looks cute too. Glad you are enjoying China!! xx :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Jess. Yes, you can save a lot if you work your ass off, but we spend much more on travels + we don’t teach during the winter and summer breaks as we travel either back home or around Asia. So in general it’s not that much money saved, but it’s still something :).

  4. I’m so glad you posted this, Agness!! There is often a common misconception that it’s nearly impossible to save money whilst teaching in China since they don’t pay as much as they do in Japan, Korea, etc. I loved the way you broke it down and gave the facts! I found that while I was there, I was able to pay off my student loans, travel a good deal and still come home with a few thousand dollars in savings. Not a bad deal!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Emily. If you live like a local and do some extra classes you can save a lot. I also know people who came here, lived like kings (parties every weekend, dining out in posh restaurants, working 12 hours a week only) and they were surprised not to save much at the end of their stay in China.

  5. Bennett - The Further Adventures of Bennett

    Great stuff! I hope we can persuade many more people to come to China too, of course ;)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I’m actually saving for my master’s degree in Europe so it’s not gonna be much travelling next year :-), but I’ll do my best to go to places I’ve always wanted to travel to.

  6. It is amazing how much money you can save up when you put your mind to it. Getting to enjoy such a fantastic country as China while actually making more money for travel must be like a dream come true. Just goes to show, if you want the life, it is always possible. Great post!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Dave. Yes, if you really want to save money, you will, no matter where you are. China is giving you a great opportunity to do so while having a great time teaching kids some English :).

  7. Great breakdown Agness, very detailed. Good to hear you could save and still enjoy weekend trips through China. I might have to look into teaching in South America, I just don’t want to leave :)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Thanks Ardun. Just wanted this post to be as much detailed as possible. Yeah you should definitely do some teaching in South America. I bet you won’t have any problems with finding a part-time job. That would be a great experience, go for it!! I’ve been following your adventures and it’s incredible how much fun you and your wife are having right now! Keep enjoying yourselves :)xx

  8. Hitch-Hikers' Handbook

    Świetny post! My uczymy angielskiego w Barcelonie i aż tak korzystnie to nie wychodzi, więc może pomyślimy o Chinach? :) Jak długo już tam jesteście? I jak Wam się zyje w tak odmiennym kulturowo miejscu?

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hey kochani. Jestesmy w Chinach juz prawie 2 lata. Wczesniej mieszkalismy w prowincji Hunan i Chongqing, teraz jestesmy przy samej granicy z Hong Kongiem. Chiny powalily nas pod wzgledem krajobrazu, uczynnosci ludzi, swietnego doswiadczenia w szkole jako nauczyciele, jedzenia i jakos nie mozemy stad wyjechac. W sierpniu planuje jednak przeprowadzke do Europy, moze Hoszpania, moze Francja :).

  9. I had no idea you guys get free housing and food at school. That’s awesome! Forwarding this to a friend who is struggling to find a full-time teaching job in Canada even after all the degrees and part-time experience.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Yep, the housing and food is free, although we cook at home a lot, school food is not our favourite one :).

  10. A savings of $18,000 is a lot of money, especially when you’re spending it later traveling in Asia! If I didn’t have a job right now, I would consider doing it.

  11. I agree! You can save a lot of money teaching English but the amount you save depends on the lifestyle you want to live. I paid off my student loan here within a couple of years but I worked A LOT of hours.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      That’s great Constance! I’m saving for my uni as well right now, but not doing many hours as I am mainly working on my blog :).

  12. Jess @UsedYorkCity

    Wow, this is fantastic! I think the huge draw is the free food and housing, as it really lets you save the majority of your salary! My friend did a similar program in Japan, but these things were out of pocket, thus it wasn’t as lucrative in the long run;-)

    Thanks so much for sharing!

  13. This is great advice. I’m about to start teaching English in Japan (fingers crossed) and am trying to live on the bare minimum, so I can save up, travel, and do fun things.

    I love that you’re always providing interesting posts~

  14. Yeah… I’ve never seen myself as a teacher in any way, so I can’t see myself doing this, but I definitely see the value in it! If I were keen enough and wanted to live overseas somewhere in Asia for an extended period of time, this would definitely be the way to go.

    1. Agness Walewinder

      I see. There are more job opportunities in China than teaching so maybe you can try something different :).

      1. Hi, with the very big interest I read Your posts. During Last year I was thinking of going to China but till now it stays in planning phase. Country seem to be a good choice to go. You wrote about some other opportunities then teaching. I’m an architect with a long experience. Is there still development in construction field ? Work in my profession and get knowledge about the country would be a great opportunity to me. I focus to work in Asia Countries.
        What your advices about the idea would be – where in China to go to get a job and have a pleasant life.

  15. Hi! I was referred here by another website where you said you teach in Dongguan. What is it like for a foreigner to live there? Do people speak English? I’ve lived in Chengdu for almost 3 years but I’m afraid I will feel lonely or alienated in Dongguan. Can you give some more insight about this? Very very very much appreciated :) Best of luck and renshi ni hen gaoxing!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Vincent. Dongguan is a huge city and we live in Dalang district which is not very busy. There are not many foreigners here so you might feel a little bit isolated. I would recommend to work and live in Dongcheng. Not many people speak basic English, but we do speak some Chinese so it’s much easier for us. Send me an e-mail at [email protected] with all questions you have and I’ll be more than happy to answer them :). Thanks!

  16. Great post, I have a friend who left the UK to teach in China and he loves it so much he’s still there after 8 years.

  17. I’ve only been away from China for two months and I already miss it. We were able to save so much money, even in Shanghai! Might have to go back some day … :-)

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Nice! I’m planning to continue my Master’s degree in Europe next year and that makes me miss China already :).

  18. Great info guys! Throughout the past year of living in HK, I’ve been slowly working on a similar article.

    I think it’s awesome you guys get accommodation covered. If that were the case here, we could save so much more.

  19. I don’t understand how you can write, “Nationality, in most cases, does not play a major role- as long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English”

    If being Caucasian gets you the job in China, then nationality does play a major role in most cases. For me, I’m African-American and I am planning to apply for a teaching job in Korea. In S. Korea, I know ethnicity does not play a major role but the country a person is from is what matters to them. An applicant has to be from an English-speaking country such as US, Canada, UK, South Africa, etc.

    1. That’s really great. South Korea differs from China on many levels, and I’m happy you plan to see what it has to offer.

      When it comes to China, you need to understand that most important is image. Parents mostly don’t speak any English, so they judge teachers by the looks.

      It doesn’t mean you can’t get a job in China. We worked with African-American in one of the schools. I also know one guy who doesn’t speak English much, but teaches because he is Caucasian. Therefore, there is an exception to every rule.

      Good luck! Have an amazing time teaching, I’m sure you will love it.

  20. Sarah Somewhere

    Those kids are adorable!!! I love your apartment, it’s really cute. China is a fascinating country and teaching English sounds like a great way to save for travel while having an awesome experience – well done!

  21. This is such a great post. I love one-stop-shopping blog posts — this one says a ton about living in China. To be honest, I had no idea a person could save so much in one year working there. I love the idea of the camps — I definitely prefer intensive gigs, and I think they’re better for students anyway than the “drip feed” style of 2 lessons a week like is done in most places. Maybe I’ll make it over there some day once I part with Japan. And teaching kids would be awesome!

  22. Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Is ethnicity very important in China? (I suspect the answer to this is YES!) I am Canadian and am a native English speaker with a PhD in Psychology, but I am not 100% Caucasian… so would that make it very difficult for me to get a job teaching English in China?

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Steph, seriously I would not worry about not being 100% Caucasian. There is a high demand of teachers and you have other great skills to offer. Would not be a problem at all!

  23. Hmm… sounds like it’s an bit easier to save money in China than in Korea. Maybe I’ll have to journey on over to China after my 1 year in Korea is up!

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Really? I’ve heard you can earn much more in Korea plus you get your teaching bonus after a year of work.

  24. I love the minimal look of that classroom! Here in Korea, my classroom is jammed full of things – more than I actually need to be honest. I was thinking of possibly teaching in China after South Korea – if I can get through the challenge of getting a job. It’s tough being an ESL teacher when you’re a native speaker, but don’t look it. Thanks for this post Agness :) it’s been a lot of help.

  25. Hello…great post..I just purchased the book..excellent..I teach in Thailand and I wanted to explore some more while trying to save. Could you tell me what the tax rate is in China for the foreign expert teachers? Is that 18k figure after taxes? Thank You, Joe

    1. Same thing I was thinking. I am not white either. Was glad to see another response from a non-white aspiring teacher and to hear that there are african-american teachers and hopefully teachers of other races as well.

  26. Thanks guys-I have surfed the net intensively for the past week and without a doubt your posts have been the best.I am a 46 year old white male and would like to teach in China.I have a university 3 year national diploma and want to do the tefl course.(where can I do this?)I also have two teenage daughters that I need to send some child support money to and how you mentioned what can be saved,I am over the moon.Work is extremely scarce in South Africa for white males due to the affirmative action policy.It has been a dream of mine to teach and travel for many years.What is your take?Is there a chance for this young 46 year old male to get hired?

    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Mark!

      I’m glad you found our post useful. Please send me a message at [email protected] so I can help you out find a teaching job. My boss’s recruiting teachers for September 2014 and February 2015, so that would be a great opportunity for you to apply!

  27. Hey Agnes,
    Włsanie planuję wyjazd do Chin by pracować jako nauczycielka angielskiego. Bardzo dużo pojawia się jednak w internecie ofert, które opisywane są jako spam. Czy możesz polecić jakieś agencje lub pośredników, a może bezpośrednio szkołę. Z góry dziękuję i gratuluję :)

  28. Hi!

    This article has been really interesting, thanks!

    Can I ask if you, and also other teachers in China, usually work most or every weekend?



    1. Agness Walewinder

      Hi Andrew. Weekends are off work in most of Chinese kindergartens, but some high school students study 7 days a week.

  29. Wow, I knew it was easy to save money while working in China. But $18,000? That alone is more than the gross annual salary for a significant amount of employees in the USA. Now I really do want to teach in China. I think my biggest challenge will be deciding which city to teach in. I’ve already done a business-related internship in Shanghai, so at least that city is not a lucrative option. Any particular locations you would suggest?

  30. Hi Agness,this post has been extremely helpful about giving some facts about teaching in China. My partner and I are currently sifting through job advertisements/recruiters to find a job for Feb 2015. Have you any advice on where to look for legitimate jobs? Any advive/help would be greatly appreciated!

  31. Hello Agness, this is a great post, very informative! I’ve been contacting employers/recruiters for more than a month now, trying to find a decent teaching job in China, unfortunately I’ve been unpleasantly surprised. The salaries and conditions turn out to be different than advertised, some ‘public’ schools are in fact private, all of them so far have tried to get me go there on a tourist visa, recruiters send me unchecked positions that turn out to be extremely dodgy and so on. I end up receiving the job, but my questions are never answered honestly. I am not a native speaker, but I’ve got a bachelor degree, CELTA and more than a year of teaching experience. Your post is so encouraging that I can’t help but wonder, why is my experience so far negative. I would love to hear some advice from you, as I am starting to think I am doing something wrong… It will be greatly appreciated!

  32. I think in some of the big cities in China that many schools will not provide free accommodation. I would say that is at least the case in Shanghai and Hong Kong. I taught in Taiwan, China and Korea.

  33. Great information on Dongguan, Agnes. The number add up but something else does not. Firstly, the only places that will give you free housing are universities. In that case, you’ll get paid anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 at the most. Specifically, I was making 4,100 at a university in Wuhan, was offered 3,500 from another school, and had an offers of 3,600 from a school in Chengdu. I have a CELTA certification, which is why I was making 4,100 while the other foreigners who were new to teaching made 4,000. For the record, I’m white and male.

    A private school, or “training center” (机构) paid my friend about 8,000 plus 1,500 housing, or 9,500. They most certainly did not pay his rent. The job I have just been offered in Chengdu will pay me 11,000 plus 1,500 housing for a total of 12,500 a month or 150,000 a year. Out of that 12,500, 2,000-2,500 will go toward an apartment. Let’s say I get the cheapest apartment possible for 1,700. That’s 20,400 a year on rent not including utilities (water, gas, electricity, internet), food, clothes, etc. That already brings us down to 129,600 or 20,359.11 USD at today’s exchange rates. You can easily imagine that saving up to $18,000 a year seems very unrealistic, not only when taking into account living expenses but also one-time expenses, such as a good winter coat, an electric scooter (2,200 minimum), emergencies, etc.

    Your estimates seem to assume you work at a university (free apartment) while getting paid the salary of a private school (8,000 – 15,000). It doesn’t sound realistic.

    Also, I have never heard of a school giving you free breakfast or any food but I’d love to work at one if it exists. At the university, teachers could go to the cafeteria the students used and we had to pay just like the students. It was dirt cheap for us but certainly not free.

    Lastly, for anyone getting excited at the idea of a free apartment with wi-fi, etc. bear in mind that, if you do work for a school that provides housing (again, most likely a university), and if that housing is subpar, you will also not be earning enough to rent a place of your own. Houses in China are not insulated, everything breaks easily, if you have faulty plumbing in the kitchen or some other recurring problem you will likely receive only band-aid solutions and live with that frustration for the duration of your stay. Some universities treat you like a student (or prisoner) where you have “curfews” and are not allows guests past a certain time (not all but it’s not uncommon).

    Just trying to provide a balanced view. You really have to be the kind of person who can deal with life in China or you won’t be having quite as much fun as Agnes, bless. :)

  34. Esther Robinson

    You stated in #1: “…As long as you are a Caucasian and you speak good English – you shouldn’t have any problems finding a job as a teacher.” Are you kidding me?! Can you expound on this? I am not Caucasian. How exactly will my ethnicity affect my chances of getting a job?

    1. In you home country and / or most western countries your ethnicity may not affect your chances of getting a job, but your skin colour does affect your opportunities in China. It is as simple as that. The hardest time finding a job teaching English have Chinese descendants who don’t speak Chinese.
      Nevertheless, regardless of your ethnicity, there is still possibility for you to teach in China, it’s just not as easy as for Caucasians.

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